Founder-CEO Interview Series

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Vincent Martinez

Vincent Martinez is the CEO and co-founder of Nanoleq (ETH spin-off). The vision of the company is to reinvent how we think about health monitoring based on smart textiles.

Before founding Nanoleq in 2017, Vincent completed his PhD in the area of microfabrication. He was part of a team developing stretchable electronics for biomedical applications, which is the material innovation at the root of Nanoleq.

On his entrepreneurial journey, Vincent received several prestigious prizes such as the ETH Pioneer Fellow (2016) and the De Vigier Award (2018).

Founder-CEO Interview Series

with Vincent Martinez

Tell us more about Nanoleq and why did you decide to found the company. 

The initial business idea of Nanoleq is based on the stretchable electronic activities that we as co-founders have been doing during our PhD activities. After years of development in close contact with the market, we managed to launch the first products by the end of 2020 to make smart textiles a reality: reliable, washable and stretchable wires and electrodes that provide the basis for optimal monitoring of the bio-signals or stimulation of nerves/muscles in garments. 

Since then, we kept innovating and we are now about to release, what we hope to become, a revolutionary wearable called Oxa for well-being applications.

After my PhD work, I had several interesting job offers on the table. However, I was already attracted by the entrepreneurial path. I applied for funding from ETH and the Swiss state for the idea behind Nanoleq. As I received both grants, I decided to give it a try and explore the market needs for our technology.

Can you give us a snapshot of how the company has grown since its inception?

We were 4 founders in 2017 and are now 34 employees exactly 5 years after the start, with offices in Zurich and Berlin. It is both really exciting and challenging to grow at this pace!

So far, we have received 2 rounds of investment: seed round of CHF 1.1mn in 2018 and Series A of CHF 13.1mn in early 2022. This is great validation for the vision and strategy of the company. 

We have also received some public funding and generated substantial revenues since the launch of our e-components.

Tell us more about your products and Oxa.

We have 2 business units at Nanoleq:

  1. We develop, produce and sell e-components to other companies (B2B) in the markets of sportswear, workwear and medtech. 

    Our customers buy our e-components as they need reliable passive components such as wires and electrodes for their own smart textiles. Most of these products are about to hit the market in 2022/2023 and we are really excited about it.
  1. Two years ago, we as founders had the ambition to go beyond technology and have a direct impact on consumers (B2C). This is why we decided to build our own product and brand. Based on our market research and own passion, we developed a full smart garment called Oxa, from the ground up and covering the full stack from e-components to textile, electronics, data science, mobile app and cloud operations. 

Oxa is a product you would wear at home to monitor your health but more importantly to teach you how to breathe in order to get more relaxed and sleep better. The strength of Oxa is that the live health data is so precise that it enables engaging exercises telling you what do to in the moment. 

We overlook breathing but it is a truly powerful tool as it influences both your physical health and mental health! With Oxa, we gamify meditation and other breathing techniques for you to regain control over your health.

In the future, we see several synergies between our 2 business units with even more exciting opportunities.

What drives you? 

Initially, the possible applications for our products and our company were not clear yet but I was mainly driven by the curiosity and hunger to explore a completely new opportunity for me to grow. However, as time passed, it has become more important to pick my fights and do something I am passionate about. 

What has been the biggest challenge so far? 

Keeping private and work life separate. 

As a founder, you must be so dedicated to make your company succeed and that takes a lot of time and support from you and the people around you.

With the years, I learnt to not work on weekends and to properly disconnect. I enjoy hiking in my free time – this is my way to meditate and restore my battery to stay healthy and inspired.

What is your view on failure? 

Life is a cycle. We all live “successes” and “failures”. Life is not a linear journey. The same applies to a company. 

I believe that it is essential as an entrepreneur / founder / CEO to distance yourself from the possible failure or success of your company. You have to stay healthy, resilient and stoic throughout the journey. 

Failures will happen and they are lessons for the founders, the team and the company to grow!

Best and worst part of being a CEO.

Let’s start with the worst. The ultimate decision is always on you. This is a heavy responsibility and requires you to be honest with yourself as to what decision it will take for the company to succeed. Besides, you need to keep some distance with your colleagues, and this is sometimes frustrating to me.

The best part is to see a team forming around your initial idea, taking ownership and challenging your vision to make something you alone would have never been able to do. I constantly learn from everyone in our company – there are many things I’d never be able to do and that keeps me humble.

What are your hopes for Nanoleq?

My dream is that we challenge the status quo and change the way we think about health in the coming years. At Nanoleq, we aspire to decentralize the healthcare system by making everyone an owner and an expert of their holistic health.

When you get diagnosed at the doctor, it is already late because your doctor will always compare you to the rest of the population but not to your “past” or “normal” you. Health is personal and healthcare should be personalized. 

This is why I firmly believe in the democratization of consumer monitoring devices as a way for people and doctors to understand if anything goes wrong with their health and the way they live impacts their life. With Oxa, we go a step beyond monitoring as we provide everyone with the tool, through breathing, to influence their health and live a better life. 

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